Monday, October 15, 2012

Haunted Athens

Author: Amanda Warren

Map of Athens and Surrounding Area from Athens Cycle Path

Athens, Ohio is a small town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It is home to one of the oldest universities in Ohio, Ohio University, established in 1804, and an abandoned state mental-health facility now-called The Ridges. The Ridges is a semi-restored group of buildings that once housed The Athens Lunatic Asylum and has since been converted into The Kennedy Museum. Stories about Athens and its many ghosts are so prevalent and widely-believed that the town has been dubbed the 13th most haunted place in the world by the television series Scariest Places on Earth.  According to an article on the Athens County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, entitled “These Woods aren’t Sleeping,” many visitors comment on a creepy sort of feeling they get when visiting the area. They write, When strangers find themselves in Athens County they will often describe a feeling...something they can't really put into words” (“These Woods…”). This feeling may be the result of the strange history of Athens and the ghost stories that have been part of that history since the first settlers came to the region.
The Ridges sits on the hill above the college.
This abandoned mental health facility is home to an art gallery
and some of the town’s most famous ghost stories
(“Lin Hall—Kennedy Museum”).
According to several sources, including a special collection of materials archived by the Ohio University Library, the town of Athens, Ohio sits in the center of a pentagram formed by five notorious, and difficult to locate, cemeteries in the surrounding foot-hills. Each cemetery has its own ghostly history, but combined they have become an even greater part of local ghost legends. In the very center of the cemetery pentagram sits what is considered by many to be the “most haunted” place on campus: Wilson Hall (Henderson).

Wilson Hall sign from Ohio University College of Arts and Sciences
Andrew Henderson, writer and founder of Forgotten Ohio, a website dedicated to collecting stories, and providing information on the many supernatural occurrences found around the University and in the Athens, Ohio area, claims that Wilson Hall “is truly the main campus’s most famous haunting; it’s the one primarily featured in Scariest Places on Earth, and the building most people point to when they’re talking about ‘Haunted Athens.’”  Unfortunately, no one has ever proven that the pentagram even exists. Despite the lack of proof the sheer number of sightings is impressive: from ghosts who haunt the halls of sororities, to the ghost of Margaret Schilling  who has been seen haunting the room in the Ridges where she died, to a marble angel statue that sheds tears for lost soldiers in the city’s West Cemetery, to rumors of a suicide-pact between a witch and a demon in Wilson Hall. According to Elizabeth Tucker, author of the book Haunted Halls : Ghostlore of American College Campuses,
A former Residential Life staff member at Ohio University told me in the winter of 2003 that Wilson Hall held the spirit of a witch who had committed suicide there in the early 1970s. Dead animals appeared in hall closets; doors locked and unlocked themselves; furniture moved itself around; and lights turned themselves on and off. When students tried to verify the witch’s suicide, relevant documents disappeared from the university’s archives. (Tucker 32)
Despite the many retellings of the particular story, about room 428 in Wilson Hall, there is no record of a suicide anywhere in Wilson Hall. There are so many competing stories about the room, all with very different facts and details, that it is hard to determine the true story, or if anything ever happened there at all. Conspirists could see this as a university cover-up, but it is more likely that the Wilson Hall story is nothing more than a local legend with very little basis in fact.
Having been a student at Ohio University, and having lived in the town for three years, I have personally witnessed some strange things, including what has come to be known as the “Marble Drop” noise in many of the buildings on campus. The noise, which sounds like marbles falling on the floor above and rolling away, has been reported on the top floor of some dormitories, and has been reported by numerous students, faculty and staff for over 30 years. I have also walked through The Ridges at night and have seen shadows in the windows of empty rooms. There is a lot of disagreement and exaggeration in the ghost stories of Ohio University and Athens, Ohio, but many people agree that there is something supernatural happening on campus. Whether these ghost stories are based in fact, or are simply the product of student and resident imagination, they have become a part of the town’s identity as a haunted place.

Works cited:
 @AandS_eNEWS_OU. “Wilson Hall” Twitter Profile. Twitter, 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2012. 

Henderson, Andrew. “Forgotten Ohio: Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.” Forgotten Ohio. Forgotten Ohio, 27 Apr. 2008. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. 

“History and Legends.” Ohio University Library Guide to Haunted Athens. Ohio University, 11 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.

“Lin Hall—Kennedy Museum.” Athens Campus Map and Tour. Ohio University, 2006. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.

 “Ohio WV Bigmap.” Mountain Bike and Hiking Trails in Athens, Ohio. Cycle Path, Inc., 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2012.

“Satan’s Dormitory: Episode One.” Scariest Places on Earth. Writ. Will Dixon. Host Linda Blair. ABC Family, Athens, OH. 23 Oct. 2000.

“These Woods aren’t Sleeping.” Athens County Ohio. Athens County Visitors Bureau, 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.  

Tucker, Elizabeth. Haunted Halls : Ghostlore of American College Campuses.Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. Print.

Links for further research:
 Haunted Athens Ohio
Claims to be the “the Official Haunted Athens Ohio Website,” but it’s unclear who granted this title.

Ohio University Library Guide to Haunted Athens
Articles and information compiled by Ohio University’s Research, Archives, and Special Collections Librarians. 

Ghosts of Athens: The Most Haunted Town in Ohio
Some traditional information about Athens’ Ghosts, and some that are not as well-known.

ABC Family’s Scariest Places on Earth. “Satan’s Dormitory: Episode One.”
The full episode featuring Athens, Ohio as the “13th Scariest Place on Earth.”


  1. I like the personal descriptions of the last paragraph; it brings a nice touch to the end of the paper.

  2. I remember that noise too. There is something creepy about Athens, for sure. If you figure that only about 10% of the stories you hear have any factual basis at all, then that still leaves you with quite a few unexplained things.

    You didn't mention the numbered graves in the woods, or the grave circle outside of The Ridges...that sort of surprised me, considering your threats to steal them all the time.

  3. I have heard Most Haunted Stories of a palce Located between Buffalo and Rochester in East Bethany, Rolling Hills Asylum dates back to 1827 when it opened as the Genesee County Poor Farm, aka "The Old County Home." Its original building was a carriage house and stagecoach stop, operating since 1790, but the land was chosen because it was mid-county and accessible to all.